Proposal may require law schools to increase transparency


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The University of Iowa College of Law and law schools around the country might have to divulge more about their graduates to prospective students.

Members of the American Bar Association discussed proposals at their meeting last weekend that would require law schools to provide more specific information regarding employment of graduating students and average post-graduation salaries.

The proposals address concerns that law schools provide inadequate and sometimes inaccurate information when it comes costs and hirings. The change would require schools to not only declare their law graduates’ employment rates but also where, or in which field, the graduates found work.

The UI reports all currently required information, said Gail Agrawal, the dean of the law school. And representatives from the UI said the association’s potential request for more information may be a good idea.

“Any school that is able honestly to report that the overwhelming majority of its graduates are able [to get] jobs that earn an attractive income and that pay enough to justify the expense of the education, that is clearly is going to be a wise decision for the student to make,” said Todd Pettys, the associate dean for faculty in the UI law school.

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The bar association’s proposal was approved as a resolution by the association’s Young Lawyer Division in February. In August, the House of Delegates will decide whether to make it a policy.
And if the proposals turn into policy, UI officials said, they plan to acquire the information and report it accurately, Agrawal said.

The proposal aims to ensure students are “fully informed about the school they’ve chosen to pursue their career,” said Stephen Zack, the president of the American Bar Association, in a statement.

Officials said the proposal is especially important because of the economic recession and concerns about law school’s high tuition costs.

“If a school’s not reporting those kinds of numbers, then prospective students are entitled to know that now rather than after they’ve sunk 50 or 60 or 80 or how ever many thousand dollars into their legal education,” Pettys said.

In light of the national number of law-school applications dropping, the proposals address concerns that inadequate and inaccurate cost information may be partly to blame for the decrease. The UI application numbers, however, have been increasing.

Janice Kim, a first-year law student at the UI from Los Angeles, said she based her law-school application decision solely on the U.S. News’ Top Law School report and thinks the proposals are a good way to encourage honesty.

“I think it kind of gives prospective students more of an idea of what the job market will be like when they graduate, that it’s not all glamorous,” Kim said. “The market is changing … so it’s important to know all the information.”

But Agrawal said tuition and starting salaries shouldn’t be a major factor for changing the information requirements.

“The starting salary for one’s first job is relevant but not the only indicator that should be considered in making a career choice,” she said.

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